Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Good Soldier Švejk  - Picnic in the Park

There is only one trait that makes the writer. He is always watching.
— Morley Callaghan, born in 1903

"Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is humanity's original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion."

 - Oscar Wilde

There is still an iron curtain between Europe’s two major mouse species, the so-called “Squeaky Curtain.” Today, they interbreed only in a narrow zone 10 to 20 km wide near the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. (“‘Squeaky Curtain’ divides Europe’s Eastern and Western mice”)

The Brideshead Generation’s “lost girls” were known for their dry repartee and sexual dalliances. Their stories deserve telling  Lost Girls 

The show, which began with hilarious writing by Larry Gelbart, was running on fumes by its last couple of seasons. I found its finale to be remarkably anemic when I tried rewatching it a couple of years ago. Evenveteran M*A*S*H scriptwriter turned blogger Ken Levine wrote of the finale, “I’ll be honest. I liked it but I didn’t love it. I know and greatly respect all the writers. And there are parts of it that are moving and brilliant. I also loved that everyone was affected in some way by the war. But I felt the show was too long and too serious. Just personal taste. I know many fans adored it.”

 Episode 362 – Richard Kadrey – The Virtual Memories Show.
“I try to tell young writers, ‘Do not fetishize your world-building.’ I’ve seen writers think they have to be Tolkien, they have to invent Elvish, before they can start the first page of their book.”

Warhol’s pranks,
 like dressing up as a box of Brillo, sound dumb. But we still live in his

Blake Gopnik’s New Bio Of Warhol: A Case For His Enduring Influence

It is hard now to recapture the shock of 1962 when the iterations of Campbell’s soup went on display at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles (New York wasn’t interested). But the cumulative effect of their pristine forms, their tromp l’oeil construction, their obsessive reiteration (there were 32 prints, one for each flavour), luminous banality and, above all, their thereness, was to blast apart everything that we thought – and think – we know about art. – The Guardian

Because few bankers are men of letters, and few men of letters are bankers, Walter Bagehotremains unique. As does his supercilious literary style  
Michael Hollingshead, LSD provider to the intellectually minded, is known as a benign cosmic courier. But his story has a dark side Divine Rascal  

ANSWERING THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS:  Is sex the answer to your relationship woes?
The answer is generally “yes,” of course: “When the so-called ‘low-desire’ partner – who is, she is at pains to emphasise, just as likely to be a man or a woman – was encouraged to have sex they didn’t particularly want, not only did they end up enjoying themselves but the high-desire partner became a much nicer person to be around.”

Hey, “maintenance sex” has saved many a marriage.Including, as you can see, some InstaPundit readers’.

Gopnik  biography is much needed — and it’s not long enough. The text is quite a roller-coaster, as the author attempts to resolve what he sees as the artist’s contradictions, something which Warhol himself never bothered about. At his revolutionary height in the 1960s, when he ruptured art and society through the astonishing liberties taken by his paintings, films and superstars at the Silver Factory, Warhol went home at night to be looked after by his mother. Gopnik sees this as an example of Warhol’s irony, but that is wrong. It’s not his irony, it’s ours.

Tsundoku - is acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one's home without reading them

“Alive Together”

Speaking of marvels, I am alive
together with you, when I might have been
alive with anyone under the sun,
when I might have been Abelard’s woman
or the whore of a Renaissance pope
or a peasant wife with not enough food
and not enough love, with my children
dead of the plague. I might have slept
in an alcove next to the man
with the golden nose, who poked it
into the business of stars,
or sewn a starry flag
for a general with wooden teeth.
I might have been the exemplary Pocahontas
or a woman without a name
weeping in Master’s bed
for my husband, exchanged for a mule,
my daughter, lost in a drunken bet.
I might have been stretched on a totem pole
to appease a vindictive god
or left, a useless girl-child,
to die on a cliff. I like to think
I might have been Mary Shelley
in love with a wrongheaded angel,
or Mary’s friend, I might have been you.
This poem is endless, the odds against us are endless,
our chances of being alive together
statistically nonexistent;
still we have made it, alive in a time
when rationalists in square hats
and hatless Jehovah’s Witnesses
agree it is almost over,
alive with our lively children
who–but for endless ifs–
might have missed out on being alive
together with marvels and follies
and longings and lies and wishes
and error and humor and mercy
and journeys and voices and faces
and colors and summers and mornings
and knowledge and tears and chance.
— Lisel Mueller 
Inside Australia's former embassy to East Germany › blueprintforliving

Businessman Alfine Fuad shows how he smuggled his family out of East Berlin through Checkpoint Charlie in 1976.

Warhol by Blake Gopnik review – sex, religion and overtaking Picasso A splendid life of Andy Warhol claims him as the most influential artist of the 20th century, and isn’t shy of exposing his private life

In U.S., Library Visits Outpaced Trips to Movies in 2019

When Grandma Moses Was Conscripted For The Cold War

“Between June and December of 1950, a government-backed exhibition of Moses’s picturesque American scenes toured six European cities. … One Foreign Service officer who was involved with the Moses show declared that the exhibition had been as valuable as ‘pure gold’ in promoting ‘the core of our national character which we are endeavoring to articulate in opposition to the efforts of the communists.'” –Smithsonian Magazine

 In the Daily Monitor Bamuturaki Musinguzi has a Q & A with the author about his new novel, Travelers, Helon Habila highlights plight of migrants in new novel. 
       I haven't seen this one yet, but see also the W.W.Nortonpublicity page, or get your copy at 

       The Good Soldier Švejk Q & A 

       Radio Prague International has started a series on The Czech Books You Must Read and they now have a Q & A by Ian Willoughby with Abigail Weil ("who is currently working on a book about Hašek") about the most-translated and one of the best-known Czech novels, Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Švejk. 
       The Penguin Classics edition is the Cecil Parrott translation -- get your copy at or -- but, as they note, a new one, by Gerald Turner, is in the works, apparently scheduled for the centenary of Hašek's 1923 death. 
       (The Good Soldier Švejk isn't under review at the complete review -- I guess I'll wait until the new translation is out ... -- but Hašek's The Secret History of my Sojourn in Russia is.) 

Howard Jacobson: 'Russia, My Homeland' – Tablet Magazine
My own contribution to the task of shaking the Urals from our shoes was preferring Tolstoy to Dostoevsky and once in a while putting in a word for Turgenev above them both. But weren’t there twinges of recognition whichever of them I read? Yes. No. Yes.

The Atlantic – “An unprecedented data set shows where the encyclopedia’s editors are, where they aren’t, and why. A map of the United States shows the percentage of households editing Wikipedia by county. Analysis of Wikipedia IP editor activity.  Wikipedia matters. In a time of extreme political polarization, algorithmically enforced filter bubbles, and fact patterns dismissed as fake news, Wikipedia has become one of the few places where we can meet to write a shared reality. We treat it like a utility, and the U.S. and U.K. trust it about as much as the news. But we know very little about who is writing the world’s encyclopedia. We do know that just because anyone can edit, doesn’t mean that everyone does: The site’s editors are disproportionately cis white men from the global North. We also know that, as with most of the internet, a small number of the editors do a large amount of the editing

But that’s basically it: In the interest of improving retention, the Wikimedia Foundation’s own research focuses on the motivations of people who do edit, not on those who don’t. The media, meanwhile, frequently focus on Wikipedia’s personality stories, even when covering the bigger questions. And Wikipedia’s own culture pushes back against granular data harvesting: The Wikimedia Foundation’s strong data-privacy rules guarantee users’ anonymity and limit the modes and duration of their own use of editor data. But as part of my research in producing Print Wikipedia, I discovered a data set that can offer an entry point into the geography of Wikipedia’s contributors. Every time anyone edits Wikipedia, the software records the text added or removed, the time of the edit, and the username of the editor. (This edit history is part of Wikipedia’s ethos of radical transparency: Everyone is anonymous, and you can see what everyone is doing.) When an editor isn’t logged in with a username, the software records that user’s IP address. I parsed all of the 884 million edits to English Wikipedia to collect and geolocate the 43 million IP addresses that have edited English Wikipedia. I also counted 8.6 million username editors who have made at least one edit to an article…”

Leap Year: Deep Blog Club Tania Irena Christian Nique

Good deep blogs do not invite unanimity. They invite discord, mayhem, knife fights, blood feuds. . . 

Another year is fast approaching. Go be that starving artist you’re afraid to be. Open up that journal and get poetic finally. Volunteer. Suck it up and travel. You were not born here to work and pay taxes. You were put here to be part of a vast organism to explore and create. Stop putting it off. The world has much more to offer than what’s on 15 televisions at TGI Fridays. Take pictures. Scare people. Shake up the scene. Be the change you want to see in the world.

~ Jason Mraz (Frozen)

Thirty days has September, April, June, and November. That little rhyme is a common way to remember the length of each of the months; those four have 30 and the others have 31. The exception, of course, is February, which has 28, usually. Every four years — unless the year is divisible by 100 and not divisible by 400 — we add an extra day to the calendar. That day is February 29, and it bumps March 1 to the next day. But in no circumstance is there ever a February 30th.
Unless you were in (Bohemia, Lithuania,) Sweden or Finland in 1712.

New species of Australian lion discovered at famous outback Queensland fossil site

A genus of Queensland marsupial lion that, in its heyday, would have had other animals "shaking in their boots", is reclassified to be entirely new.

Sydney’s Secret Huts and ... (parks)

  • Employees at Google spoke out against what they felt were unethical practices. But it didn’t go as planned. The New York Times Magazine’s Noam Scheiber and Kate Conger with “The Great Google Revolt.”
  • On his “Black on the Air” podcast for The Ringer, Larry Wilmore talks to NBC News’ Lester Holt. The two discuss the news business, how Holt got into journalism, criminal justice reporting and how to moderate a debate.
  • BuzzFeed News’ Alex Kantrowitz with “How Saudi Arabia Infiltrated Twitter.”
I’m flattered, to say the least … As nobody quits the deep blog club. Once you’re in the club, you’re in it forever. 

When Filmmakers Make Films In Languages They Don’t Speak Well

“It is a truth universally acknowledged in world cinema that a celebrated auteur, making their first film outside their native tongue, must be preparing a dud.” But is it actually true? Well, there are a few success stories such as Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth and Alpsin Greek, then The Lobster and Oscar-winner The Favourite in English), but only a few. – The Guardian

New Right Wing Director Of Warsaw’s Contemporary Art Center Cancels Shows, Cuts Funding

The Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art is now seen by many in Poland’s contemporary art community as a new front in the country’s culture wars, as the ruling Law and Justice party attempts to exert greater control over state-sponsored institutions and promote artists aligned with its patriotic, pro-family views. – The Art Newspaper

“At first going to hotels seemed exciting and glamorous, but now I find it depressing and lonely. Essentially they are all pretty much the same; there are better or worse. You do your thing and you come back to your hotel. And you get up the next day and it is like you’ve never been there at all. It was interesting to see if I could make something out of that seemingly dead time.” - Eimear McBride
I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a hotel novel, but don’t have enough experience with hotels to make the setting convincing. (I’ve always been more homebody than traveler.) I think the only hotel novel I’ve read is Jim Thompson’s Wild Town

Dave Hickey, at 80, is a broken-down lion of a man. What remains is a vision of art that extends to every realm of human endeavour   

Report: Arts Drive Tourism In Australia

Australians took 12.3 million daytrips and 13.4 million overnight trips within Australia that included arts activities in 2018 – an increase of 14 percent and 20 percent respectively since 2014 – with increases found across visiting museums and art galleries, attending performing arts, visiting art or craft workshops or studios, attending festivals, and experiencing First Nations arts and craft. The report also flagged an increasing interest in First Nations arts tourism. – Limelight 
 'Fear stronger than hope': Worst week for Wall Street since GFC
Panic in the stock market over the spreading coronavirus continued into a seventh day on Friday, with shares in the US tumbling following steep declines in Asia and Europe.

Every year, director Steven Soderbergh publishes a list of the movies, books, TV series, short films, and short stories he’s watched and read over the course of the year (one of the inspirations for my media diet posts). For many creators, the key to making good work is to read and watch widely with an emphasis on quality — it’s difficult make great work if your ingredients are poor — so Soderbergh’s 2019 list is a fascinating look at the director’s inputs for the next year’s creative endeavors.

Some observations:

  • The pace here is incredible…2,3,4 movies in a day, several episodes of TV shows in a sitting.
  • He didn’t watch Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker but did watch the Kenobi fan film.
  • He binged Succession in three days. Finishing Fleabag took him more than a month.
  • He watched Marriage Story and The Irishman on the same day.
  • One day he did a mini Mike Judge film festival: Office Space and Idiocracy.
  • I remember from past lists that he watches some movies over and over…that doesn’t seem to be the case this year.
An amazing world we are heading into.  Paint Like no other

How the Finance Curse hurts U.S. agriculture

A Silicon Valley CEO’s job posting for a “household manager/cook/nanny” has gone viral for listing requirements for vegan cooking and winter sports.
The listing, posted by a “single mom entrepreneur CEO” living in Menlo Park, is more than 1,000 words long and is seeking a nanny to take care of her 10-year-old twins. It was posted on Google’s job search site, The Calendar Group, but has since been taken down.
The mom is looking for someone who:
  • Can cook for a family that “eats organic and is allergic to cow and goat dairy, chicken eggs, green beans and watermelon.” Also “can eat duck eggs” and “can read articles about eating beef and increases in breast cancer.”
  • “Can do calisthenics with the kids (sit-ups, squats, push-ups) and generally play and roughhouse with the kids.”
  • “Can ski at least at an intermediate level.”
  • Is “physically active, strong, athletic, high energy, understands the basics of team sports.”
  • “Can build alliances with other kids’ parents and nannies and arrange play dates and joint travel with other families.”
  • Can “strategically think through vacation options based on the developmental levels of the kids and the need for the mom to relax.
  • Has “experience driving in other countries.”
  • Can “track and administer allowance, clothing budgets, household expenses, etc.”
  • ”Has a “university degree or equivalent knowledge” and can assist in math homework by coming up with problems like “How long will it take us to drive to the snow if it’s 150 miles and we go 50 miles an hour?”
THE TEN WORST COLLEGES FOR FREE SPEECH, 2020 EDITION: Harvard’s on it. So is Portland State. Is your school? Plus a lifetime censorship award!

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